Food-based dietary guidelines (FBDG) aim to address the nutritional requirements at population level in order to prevent diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle. Diet quality indices can be used to assess the compliance with these FBDG. The present study aimed to investigate whether the newly developed Diet Quality Index for Adolescents (DQI-A) is a good surrogate measure for adherence to FBDG, and whether adherence to these FBDG effectively leads to better nutrient intakes and nutritional biomarkers in adolescents. Participants included 1804 European adolescents who were recruited in the Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence (HELENA) Study. Dietary intake was assessed by two, non-consecutive 24 h recalls. A DQI-A score, considering the components' dietary quality, diversity and equilibrium, was calculated. Associations between the DQI-A and food and nutrient intakes and blood concentration biomarkers were investigated using multilevel regression analysis corrected for centre, age and sex. DQI-A scores were associated with food intake in the expected direction: positive associations with nutrient-dense food items, such as fruits and vegetables, and inverse associations with energy-dense and low-nutritious foods. On the nutrient level, the DQI-A was positively related to the intake of water, fibre and most minerals and vitamins. No association was found between the DQI-A and total fat intake. Furthermore, a positive association was observed with 25-hydroxyvitamin D, holo-transcobalamin and n-3 fatty acid serum levels. The present study has shown good validity of the DQI-A by confirming the expected associations with food and nutrient intakes and some biomarkers in blood.
British Journal of Nutrition, 2013, Vol 109, Issue 11, p. 2067-2078